Recognition of the high value of independent journalism is in danger of being undermined across all spheres of news-gathering, a major news media conference heard today (23/03/21). In addition to existing and increasing restrictions on newsgatherers, the pandemic has provided governments and the organisers of other news events with an opportunity to further limit access to venues and access to information.
Practical barriers to journalism and the importance of viable news operations were discussed during a session of the News Media Forum, a three-day event staged by the European Commission. A number of participants, amongst 100 attendees, described worsening working conditions for journalists – problems obtaining information, difficulties providing witness accounts from events such as demonstratons and the censoring effect of discrimination and online abuse of journalists.
Andrew Moger, Director, of the News Media Coalition (NMC) asked the panel focusing on ‘Journalists on the Ground’: How big is the concern that increasing devaluation of independent news media by some governments and some citizens will spread to other news areas – such as journalists covering civic events, cultural events, sports events, etc?
Flatura Kusari, legal advisor, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, responsed: I think this is of course related where censorship and self-censorship and there is no difference between the types of news when censorship is forced upon journalists. If you do not work in independent media or if the outlet is not able to work independently then censorship will spread across all types of journalism that is provided.’
The session moderator, Maja Cappello, Head of Legal Information, European Audiovisual Observatory, added: ‘The risks concern the profession as a whole. So I see that the risk can be as you mentioned.’